[Today’s opinion piece by Christopher Dale is part of our paid blogging program.]
On most issues, I am a reliable progressive. I believe in a strong social safety net, universal healthcare, gender equality in the workplace and elsewhere, and same-sex marriage and adoption rights. I supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primaries and, like the Vermont Senator, describe myself as a Democratic Socialist.
But there is one issue on which I break from the vast majority of liberals. I am a pro-life progressive.
From a policy or legislative standpoint, I am nothing to fear. My liberal leanings on every other important issue are in lockstep with the Left, and the race-baiting, anti-science Republican Party—especially in its current Trumpist horror show—repulses me as much as the next Progressive.
My political affiliation is firmly with the Progressive movement and larger Democratic Party. I simply happen to hold a higher bar for ending a life in the making than most liberals. Specifically, I feel that rape, incest or threat to the mother’s health are legitimate reasons, but past that I value life over the broad array of other situations comprising choice.
I realize that this position has zero chance of becoming an official platform of the party I persistently support. My fellow Progressives should realize that as well. However, far too many in a movement that espouses widespread tolerance can’t seem to tolerate views that, for honest reasons, differ from their own orthodoxy.
I write this knowing full well that most so-called progressive outlets would never publish this piece, fearing reader backlash on their websites and social media platforms. This sort of cowardly self-censorship is one of many ways interactive and social media have siloed society into rigid tribes, from which any ideological deviation whatsoever is deemed treasonous.
Strangling counterpoints in their cradles isn’t political journalism, it’s just political hackery. It is also the polar opposite of true progressivism.
This inclination to suppress or shout down pro-life liberals is grandstanding overkill. Pro-choice is so synonymous with Progressive that the occasional discordant voice, like mine, is barely audible background buzz. So why the need to drown us out?
The proof is in the political campaigns: Democrats are completely purging themselves of pro-life candidates. As reported by Vice News, in 2009, 64 Congressional Democrats in the House of Representatives expressed concerns over the Affordable Care Act because they wanted more restrictions on abortion. Just 12 of these 64 remain in Congress today and, by the beginning of this year, exactly zero of the 91 House seats Democrats deemed flippable were being sought by pro-life candidates. Ditto for Democratic challengers in competitive Senate races: none.
This reflects solidifying sentiments among self-identified progressives. Last summer, FiveThirtyEight reported that 88 percent of “ideological liberals”—I would place myself in this category—were pro-choice, outpacing the broader Democratic Party by 13 percentage points. Ironically, the less-than-prescient title of that piece was “Democrats Aren’t In Lockstep Over Abortion—That’s Why They’re Fighting.” The 91-0 pro-choice tilt in House candidates says otherwise and, besides, 88% and 75% are both overwhelming majorities. It’s a pro-choice Party, period.
As both Progressive orthodoxy and Democratic Party policy, then, abortion is a settled issue. We’re not running pro-life candidates, and are exceedingly pro-choice as a voting bloc.
Considering this, subjecting pro-life Progressives to social media trolling and editorial censorship is pathetic, paranoid and puerile. It is also potentially self-defeating. Though not unique to the Left, the stifling, dismissive notion that everyone must completely agree with the predominant positions on each and every issue has limited the Progressive movement, and with it the Democratic Party.
On the other side, Republicans have a tent big enough for extreme fiscal conservatives like Rand Paul, extreme cultural conservatives like the Freedom Caucus, and extreme-everything Trumpists. To counter this, Progressives need as welcoming a home as we can build.
To that I say this: We’re here. We’re pro-life. Get over it already.